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J.C. Penney and Cisco Rally, While Price War Hurts Verizon and AT&T

By Matt Thalman – Feb 14, 2014 at 1:00PM

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Dow and S&P 500 move higher after better than expected consumer sentiment report, but Nasdaq falls.

Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over daily movements, we do like to keep an eye on market changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

A better than expected consumer sentiment report from Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan is being received with mixed reviews this afternoon. As off 1:05 p.m. EST, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI 0.10%) is higher by 83 points, or 0.52% and the S&P 500 is up 0.31%, while the Nasdaq is off by 0.06%. While economists predicted the preliminary consumer sentiment report for February would come in at 80.6, the actual figure reported was 81.2 -- the same number seen in January. This report indicates consumers are feeling good about the economy. However, some believe his report lags the stock market's movement and that ultimately we could seen a decline in confidence in February's report as the market has not been all that great this year.

Within the Dow, one big winner today is Cisco (CSCO -0.54%), as shares are up more than 1.5%. The move comes on very little news, but after a fall of 2.5% yesterday after the company reported earnings. The networking specialist beat on both the top and bottom lines but told investors that revenue in the current quarter was going to be weak. Wall Street had already expected a weak third quarter for Cisco, so that news shouldn't have been a surprise to any investor. What more than likely happened was some knee-jerk selling yesterday, and today investors are moving back in to buy shares on the cheap.

One big Dow loser is Verizon (VZ -0.39%), as the stock has fallen 1.8%. Again with no news pertaining to the company today, investors are likely trading on the recent news that Verizon will follow the lead set by T-Mobile and AT&T (T -0.89%) to cut rates on monthly plans. Now that the price wars have started, margins and profits will likely fall for all three companies involved. While Verizon and AT&t could best absorb the reduced rates, these moves now may bring into question the stability and growth rates of the two companies' prized dividends. AT&T is the Dow's top yielding stock at 5.52%, while Verizon is No. 2 with a yield of 4.57%. Low margins tacked on to new debt for Verizon from fully acquiring Verizon Wireless and AT&T's need to expand into a different market for continued growing may mean the dividends are put on the back burner and increases are more modest in coming years.

Outside the Dow, shares of J.C. Penney (JCPN.Q) are higher by more than 2%. The move comes after a few interesting developments. First, the company is replacing Ken Hannah, the CFO who came in under former CEO Ron Johnson's reign, with Edward Record. This is certainly a move that seems logical as Johnson's game plan was much different than that of current CEO Myron Ullman. In addition, Jana Partners has sold its whole 500,000 (as of Sept. 30) stake in the retailer. While this move on the surface may sound bad, as another big investor leaves the department store chain, it may actually be cause for hopeful investors to cheer. The move could suggest that recent selling pressure on the stock was simply Jana unloading its massive amount of shares, and now the stock will be able to move higher. While this is certainly only one theory, the fact of the matter is over the past five days shares are up 11.75%; we may be at the beginning of a rally, but I still wouldn't buy into it if I were you.  

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Matt Thalman has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Cisco Systems. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Stocks Mentioned

Dow Jones Industrial Average (Price Return) Stock Quote
Dow Jones Industrial Average (Price Return)
$34,429.88 (0.10%) $34.87
Verizon Communications Stock Quote
Verizon Communications
$38.18 (-0.39%) $0.15
AT&T Stock Quote
$19.02 (-0.89%) $0.17
J.C. Penney Stock Quote
J.C. Penney
Cisco Systems Stock Quote
Cisco Systems
$49.70 (-0.54%) $0.27

*Average returns of all recommendations since inception. Cost basis and return based on previous market day close.

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